One Outs – a mind games anime like no other

A quite unusual sports anime.

Sports anime is a hit or miss for most of the people. Usually, one either watches them one after another like breathing, or doesn’t watch at all. Arguments for? Usually stunning and memorable characters, the shows are dynamic and pretty fun. Arguments against? With some exceptions, plot is just boring or doesn’t even exist to begin with.
Here’s the thing with One Outs. It’s a show about baseball which is hardly about baseball. Yet, on practice this isn’t either good or bad part of it. You simply don’t need to love baseball or even understand its to enjoy it. At the same time, if any of the names like Death NoteCode GeassMonsterHigurashi No Naku Koro NiPsycho-PassSteins;GateHikaru no GoMirai Nikki ring a bell – you will almost instantly like One Outs as well. It tells the story of hunger for the victory, manipulation and gambling. For more anime reviews – look here.

The beginning:

Hiromichi Kojima, a professional slugger of a (fictional) Lycaons team looks for a cure of depression and something that will bring his team to the major leagues. In the slums of Okinawa, he meets a locally famous pitcher, Tokuchi Toua. Thing is, Toua is famous not only for his incredible 134 kmh throwing speed, but also for the unmatched gambling spirit which allowed him to win 499 bets (bet on himself) in gambling game. “One Outs” is a simplified version of baseball between the pitcher and one batter where you can both win and lose everything. Amazed by both of these qualities, Kojima manages to scout Toua to the team.
Yet, the team owner see Tokuchi as a threat and instability link due to his gambler nature. He suggests Tokuchi to accept a one of a kind One Outs contract – every successful pitch Toua makes earns him 5 million yen, but with every run he gives up, he will lose fifty million yen. Not quite a comfortable condition – to lose 10 times more than you can win, right? Yet Tokuchi Toa doesn’t think so.

What makes One Outs special:

In sports anime, we usually get to know the team – so we can root for them, love or hate some characters. It’s not the case in One Outs – instead, anime focuses on Tokuchi Toua himself. Yet, it’s not when we see the world through the eyes of a protagonist either. This is somewhat similar to what distinguishes One Piece from most of similar shounen anime – most of the times, we don’t actually know what the hero thinks. We are not allowed into his thoughts, we don’t get his internal monologues.
Instead, we see everyone else’s reaction to what he does, and an explanation later. This plays extremely well with Toua’s nature – he’s a master manipulator. He can get inside the other player head and make him to do exactly what he needs him to do. Reality of all his previous wins is not even in his incredible pitching speed to begin with – but in his frightening ability to “read” the opponnent. He is a born expert of human psychology and uses this to his full advantage and without hesitation.
Both opening and ending songs are in English – done by Japanese alternative rock band, Pay Money to My Pain. Full English lyrics happen not so often in anime, but here it doesn’t make it neither better or worse. Worth to mention though, that PTP has much better English pronunciation and less noticeable accent compared to most of Japanese bands.

It's all just a gamble.

One Outs is all about gambling. Tokuchi’s contract with the team owner is just a game to play with himself in first turn. Every match in the series is yet another, harder gamble to take and perform. Every game depends not only on the players skills, but also on a psychology and Toua’s answers to opponents own mind games. And that’s exactly what makes One Outs so interesting. Too often we see how our favourite team wins because in inhuman strength, endurance and speed training. Because of luck. Because of love or hate. But not in One Outs.
Every team uses more than just physical advantage to win. One team uses a professional runner to steal bases and get easy points – he may not even fully know the game rules. Another team forgets about defense and focuses on three “carry” players instead. Some other team just cheats every time – but so masterfully that it can’t be proven.
Our team (asides from just being weak) has own problems which is a classic for sports nowadays. It’s owner is a businessman who will allow his team to lose constantly if it saves him money. Here goes the yet another gamble game betweem him and Tokuchi. And this gamble, ironically, can save the team future. This won’t be easy though – as with every game, opponents learn more and more about Lycaons new “dark horse” and prepare own psychological traps for him.
One Outs takes a classic concept of a sports anime and basically turns it upside down. It shows the dangers of gambling but also shows and incredibly mind game. It shows how a truly forged mind can change everything. And that’s what makes it so incredibly addictive to watch.